Basic Ergonomic Tips For Working From Home During COVID-19

ergonomic tips

The sudden changes in our working habits due to COVID-19 have triggered a host of maladies – the most common types being advanced neck and back pain.

Poor ergonomics in the workspace can contribute to muscle strain, muscle imbalances, and fatigue, and studies show there are more than 380,600 cases of ergonomic injuries each year. That’s not all. Poor ergonomics – in this case work-related injuries from sitting our home offices during a pandemic – can easily translate into many more workers’ compensation claims for your business.

What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is all about enhancing worker productivity. The design of your workplace, the tools you use, and the work processes you put in place all work together to impact your ability to be productive at work.

To remain healthy while working from your home it’s important to maintain proper ergonomics in the home office. Below are a few easy-to-implement ergonomic tips to help decrease your chance of injury during your work hours:

Tips for Proper Ergonomics

  • Adjust your chair height – your chair height and tilt should be adjusted so that your thighs are approximately parallel to the floor.
  • Your feet should rest flat on the floor or on a footrest.
  • Adjust your seat back – your lower back (lumbar area) plus mid-back should be well-supported. Adjust the seat back height, angle and tilt tension accordingly and sit back in your chair.
  • Keep elbows close to your sides – adjust chair arm rests so that you can rest the weight of your arms when you rest. Avoid hunching your shoulders forward.
  • Avoid screen glare – tilt your screen or reposition it. Do not position your monitor directly below lighting fixtures. Position your screen perpendicular to windows or other light sources. Use an anti-glare screen only as a last resort.
  • Take breaks – take assigned work breaks to refresh and relax your body. Stay hydrated with plenty of water. Vary your posture throughout the day and try to arrange your work assignments to avoid prolonged seated posture. Take a brief walk and/or stand while taking a phone call. Getting up for at least one minute every 30 – 45 minutes is suggested. Periodically look away to the distance to relax the eyes.
  • Adjust your monitor(s) for proper height and distance – the monitor should be at approximately an arm’s length (15″ – 30″) away. The upper edge of the monitor should be set at eye height so that you look slightly downward at the top two inches of the screen allowing your eyes to scan down the screen. Dual monitors should be located closely together and at the same height and distance so that your eyes do not have to re-focus and your head does not turn significantly when you look back and forth.

Proper Desktop Ergonomics

  • Adjust your monitor(s) so that the top of the screen is at eye level.
  • Place your mouse and keyboard on the same plane to avoid overreaching.
  • Keep your wrists/hands/forearms aligned and shoulders relaxed. 
  • Keep your monitor about an arm’s length away and be aware of lighting and glare.
  • Forearms should be parallel to the floor – adjust your keyboard tray or desk height accordingly.
  • Your wrists should be straight and your hands in line with your forearms – adjust the height and position of the keyboard tray to keep wrists flat.
  • Locate your mouse within easy reach – the mouse is to be placed on the keyboard tray (when possible) and within easy reach, no more than 3″ – 4″ from the keyboard.

Proper Laptop Ergonomics

  • Work in comfortable chair – one that allows you to sit back while positioning the laptop in your lap for a neutral wrist posture. 
  • Use a wireless keyboard and mouse if possible.
  • Position and angle the laptop screen so that you can see it with the least amount of neck deviation (to avoid static forward head posture). 
  • Forearms should be parallel to the floor – adjust your keyboard tray or desk height accordingly.
  • Your wrists should be straight and your hands in line with your forearms – adjust the height and position of the keyboard tray to keep wrists flat.

Proper Tablet Ergonomics

  • If possible, don’t hold a tablet for more than twenty to thirty minutes of continuous use. 
  • Use a stand with an external keyboard if possible.
  • Alternate hand grips every few minutes. (The three most common grip methods of tablets are clipboard, flat palm, and thumb grip)

Proper Smartphone Ergonomics

  • Keep your head posture in mind! Make sure your head is upright and hold the device at chest height or slightly higher. 
  • Cross one arm over your chest to support the weight of your arm holding the smartphone to help with arm fatigue. The fatigue is also a good cue to take a break! 
  • Keep smartphone interactions short and sweet – under five to ten minute durations when possible. Save the longer interactions for your desktop (or laptop) computer.
  • If talking on the smartphone, use wireless headphones to prevent having to use your arm to support the phone.

By making even a few ergonomic adjustments (like those above), you might save actually yourself from days or weeks of potential discomfort and possible injury.

To get yourself or employees at your organization the best possible support for a quick switchover to home office setups, use these basic tips to get started or contact our experts to schedule a virtual ergonomic assessment.

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